I have a heavy heart following the US election result. I kind of thought this would be the outcome, but didn’t want to believe it was possible. I wanted to write something about all of this without delving into either side and read earlier today about people dreading thanksgiving with pro-Trump family members. Regardless of political loyalties, a new President is sure to bring uncertainty to Americans and this has been one of THE MOST divisive and nasty campaigns.The outcome has resulted in protests and people burning flags and effigies?! Among all of this people are scared for a variety of reasons.
So how do you get through a meal with people you love and have grown up with when they have opposing views? Surely you can’t ignore the Trump shaped elephant in the room?
I know a lot of people don’t want to compare Brexit to the US election but the fact is it has bought out similar arguments and opinions TURNED UP TO ELEVEN.
Following the result of the EU referendum here in the UK I considered myself lucky to have friends who had similar opinions to me but anticipated having to fight my corner when in social situations. This came to a head when I sat down to dinner with people recently and there was one person who was particularly vocal about their opinions on the EU ref, which differed from mine. I had sat down to the meal having made the agreement that it was best if we didn’t mention it. But inevitably it came up.
This was awkward. I wasn’t in a position to lose my temper, get angry or tell the person they were being an idiot. They started off telling us their thoughts (and I am fine with political debate or discussion) but quickly they moved onto gloating about having “won”.
This wasn’t the first time I had encountered this so for a time I bit my tongue but, eventually I rose to the bait had to say something.
In response I told them about my experiences the day after the result and how the atmosphere has been at work. We were basically in mourning for the state of society. We all sat in the dark most of the day. We’d had colleagues come in and talk to us about their concerns, we’d had students talk to us about their choices and their future. It was sad knowing that for some people I knew and worked with, the EU ref result would be life changing – and not in a good way. (Of course me hearing about these things is nothing compared to what people are actually going through and I cannot begin to imagine how people are dealing with the US election result)
During that dinner I felt a renewed knot in my stomach, I felt sick, I felt sad, I felt angry. And here was this person, grinning beside us. Gloating about the outcome. How could anyone feel this great about something so sad?
Luckily my fellow dinner eater wasn’t being racist or sexist and had not mentioned immigration. They had just seemed so smug when it was clear the impact this would have on others, even if there were advantages for their agenda. Soon after I had shared my take on things the conversation topic changed. I knew the battle was not at that dinner table. Nothing would be won, lost or changed by causing a scene.
This story is unremarkable and I’m not going to patronise anyone by telling them everything is going to be sunshine and roses now Trump will be in charge. I appreciate how much more heated debates will be around American dinner tables. I can’t condone biting your tongue like I did for part of the meal, but I know that in times like these sometimes that can feel like the only option.
I can’t tell you how best to deal with familiar idiots. Often there seems to be no “best way” to shut down people who have opposing view points.
But I can tell you this:
You will get through that family meal, that reunion, that party, whatever. You are not over reacting, you are not being touchy and you are entitled to feel sad about the situation.